Opal Heath, Raced Needles, Dies

Raced Kentucky Derby winner Needles with her husband and Jack Dudley

Opal Heath, widow of influential Florida horseman Bonnie Heath, died March 23 at her Ocala, Fla., home. She was 92.

The Heaths and Jack Dudley won the 1956 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes with Needles, who was voted champion 3-year-old male. Needles, by Ponder, was co-champion 2-year-old male of 1955. 

Needles stood at Bonnie Heath Farm near Ocala.

The Heaths’ son, Bonnie Heath III, said his mother enjoyed farm life.

“Anytime something would go wrong, she’d just laugh and say, ‘That’s life on the farm,’ ” Bonnie Heath III told Wire-to-Wire. “She was probably one of the most strong-willed people I’ve ever met. I’ve never seen anyone quite as determined as she was.”

In addition to her son and her son’s wife, Kim, Opal Heath’s survivors include daughters Heather and Hillary.

A memorial service is planned for April 1, which would have been Opal Heath’s 93rd birthday, at First Christian Church, 1908 E. Fort King St. in Ocala, at 1 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the United Way of Marion County.